Casey, Andrews, Poulter, Minchin Pass, Townsend, Taramakau

7-10 Sept 2019

Five set off from Andrews Shelter at 0930 for a 6 hour forest walk to the site of the old Casey Hut then up the Poulter River to Trust Poulter Hut.

Early evening light on snowy mountains seen from a broad Poulter River valley was a sight to behold. A cold, clear night encouraged us to light the open fire. Bad move. The fire-place has a very high front which lets a good proportion of the smoke go into the hut. Angela cooked a delicious noodle meal from a PTC recipe.

We put on smoky clothes at 0630 and were away before 8am. Forty minutes up from the hut we stopped for a look at the modern Poulter Hut then on through a forest track to Lake Minchin.

At the head of the lake a cold breeze made us put coats on, then we entered a soggy track to bypass a gorge. Back to the stream, no track revealed itself so we had to paddle along the edge in places to progress. We were happy to reach the biv at 3:30. Dan and John chose to stay in the biv so we pitched two tents in a cold southerly wind as the occasional flurry of sleet settled. The forecast had predicted this but it was all gone by morning and the tall tussock around the biv stayed dry. Kerry tried hard not to impress by cooking a lazy-man’s macaroni with de- hy peas and cheese. Kiwi calls overnight were a bonus in this remote spot.

Dan was first up in the morning and managed to light the MSR stove and not the biv. Peter’s boots froze under the tent fly. Kerry managed to finish drying a shirt that got wet on day one by wearing it inside the sleeping bag. It got wet when he jumped in a deepish part of the Casey and capsized. Away at 8, it took us less than an hour to reach 1082m Minchin Pass, amid small snow patches. The track descending through scrub into Townsend Stream is well marked with white plastic standards. Soon we were boulder-hopping while looking for the occasional short, scrubby diversion. A route-guide spoke of a 300m track avoiding a gorgy bit one hour down from Minchin Pass. We began to think we’d missed it but after three hours, there it was, thank heavens. We must have been a slow party. We took nine, from the biv to the Taramakau. To get past the cascades we had to make lots of crossings of this fairly brisk stream. Walking-poles were very helpful. Peter was carrying a saw so was able to make his own stick.

5pm and a chilly wind blowing down the Taramakau convinced us to keep going to Kiwi Hut. We reached this 6-bunker in the dark and settled in. The hut is fairly old and seems to be used by trampers, the farmer and rats. A big pail once contained a salt-lick for the Belted Galloway cows that graze the valley. A Miss Muffet’s Revenge spider killer 4 litre bottle lives in the entrance room. So does a large gas hob. The fireplace follows the Trust Poulter design and a stained ceiling suggests it too is a smoker.

Tuesday, another fine day for a walk down-river with some big snowy peaks around us.

Looking back from the Taramakau where Townsend Creek exits

Crossing the Otira River was no problem and soon we were at the clever Griggmobile that had found its way to the Owens farm at Aickens. We treated ourselves to a coffee stop at Arthurs and were back in ChCh by 5:30. On average this is a moderate trip with a hard section down Townsend Creek. The creek is avoidable by going high to Townsend Hut.

Many thanks to able leader Angela for a great adventure, also to Ian and Emma Grigg for moving the vehicle so we could just drive away from Aickens.

We were: Angela Grigg, Dan Pryce, Peter Umbers, John Robinson and Kerry Moore (KM)